Fear for the gear – part 2

Once again we are flying to Brazil on vacations. Now in the European summer, due to constraints on school vacations (2 weeks winter vacations are not enough to cross the ocean :-) ).

Bird eye view of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (photo from totaldecadence.com).

Bird eye view of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (photo from totaldecadence.com).

I’m even repeating the same beautiful image of the previous post :-)

Didn’t have bad experiences in previous years, but didn’t have a relaxed experience either. Pretty much using the dSLR at the families’ houses and in closed environments. Not really useful, at the end.

Whenever I had to go on the street I carried a small point and shoot, that fits in my pocket and is quite inexpensive. So I can go more relaxed and more inconspicuous. Together with that, the violence situation in Brazil didn’t improve, exactly the opposite.

Well! This time I decided to leave the dSLR at home and take just the point and shoot. Last time I even managed to do some HDR with it. It’s harder (you have to exposure compensate by hand without the proper knobs), it’s JPG, but the results are not bad.

On top of not having to worry about the camera itself, I’ll spare myself some weight (not the camara’s) and some possible headaches.

If I’m not taking the dSLR, I don’t have to take a laptop to store the images. So I travel way lighter. The images from the point and shoot are JPG, so way smaller than the 25-30MB per image of the dSLR in RAW. Not enough memory cards and backup solutions ;-)

Also I save time in customs. When you’re a foreigner coming to Brazil, you can bring your camera, laptop, … with problems. When you’re a Brazilian living abroad, same rules apply, but you really have to make that clear to the custom officers, otherwise you’ll be charged import taxes on your gear. I just don’t want to go through that. So no dSLR, no laptop, no headaches, though, no good pictures either.

Sad decision, but it’s vacations and I really need to rest and spend time with our families! :-)

Also sad news on the coffee side of life! My espresso machine is in a comma!!!! Let’s see what could be done when I’m back!!

This blog will be back in September, after the summer!!

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Standing on the way

Accidents involving “photographers” are becoming quite common in events nowadays.

When I hear that, the first image that comes to my mind is an accident in a Giro d’Italia a couple years ago where a rider was not able to steer away from the “photographer’s cloud” that gathers after a stage finish, SEVERAL meters after it, to shoot the mass sprint from a vantage point.

Example of bike crash caused by a careless photographer - English Championship 2015 (photo: VeloUK)

Example of bike crash caused by a careless photographer – English Championship 2015 (photo: VeloUK)

But this is not what I’m talking about. Last Giro d’Italia a rider got his arms severely hurt after encountering a camera lens creeping in the road over the barriers. Not a professional photographer, the guy had shot the on-going sprint with a long lens and was checking the shots with his lens still on the way. Couple of weeks ago, a similar thing happened during the English National Championship, knocking the rider on the floor, this time without severe injuries. Not a new thing actually, not many years ago, another rider left the Tour de France due to a crash with an amateur photographer (aka, person in the road with a camera).

I’ve got the inspiration to write about it here because of this last weekend. My family joined the city run and I, of course I took my camera to take some shots! The first to run was my son, small 600 meters run. Early before the start I positioned myself in curb and I had the mind not to obstruct anybody’s view or the race itself. I’m hard to miss, specially with a camera. Of course, as the start approaches, somebody goes right in front of me with a camera or a phone, as if I or anyone else were not there. No attention, no looking back, just the “I don’t care” mode. You try to steer, find a different spot, someone else comes. Closer to the start line, the professionals hired to cover the event, start placing themselves in the middle of the road. Some amateurs try the same spot and are sent away. All you can hear is the organization asking the people NOT TO OBSTRUCT THE ROAD!

Bottom line, I couldn’t get a shot of my kid, though I was one of the first ones to get there. Since I believe respect comes first, I’m OK with that, just frustrated not to have the same treatment.

Last year, for the city parade, something similar happened. I found a nice spot and wanted to shoot low. So I sat on the floor. As the parade approaches, one of the photographers for the local news agreed with my spot choice and decided to stand RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. After my protesting, the person moved “two steps” to the side, not without a disdain look. Or a kindergarten event where everybody with a camera wants to get the shot, regardless of being on the way of the parents that actually want to SEE the kids playing or receiving the prizes.

I’m pretty sure everybody has a similar story to tell. Anyway, we could start respecting our colleagues and people involved in the events we want to shoot. This could be a good start.

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Image and emotion

How much emotion can an image convey??

Kermit's image for the cover of Life Magazine in 1990 on the death of Jim Henson. By Joe McNally.

Kermit’s image for the cover of Life Magazine in 1990 on the death of Jim Henson. By Joe McNally.

A bit of background on the story :-)

Sometimes a story just comes to you, that was the case last week. Early in the week, I was watching TV with my kids and there was a cartoon called Jim Henson’s Doozers, about the hard working creatures of Fraggle Rock. I’m reading “The Moment it Clicks” from Joe McNally and about half way through the week I’ve got to the picture he took for Life Magazine in 1990 on the death of Jim Henson (the one above). Finally, on the weekend, my wife set up a movie section for the kids with … guess what? … the “new” (2011) Muppets movie.

Jim Henson references three times in the same week. Reading a bit about him you find out that he basically created everything we’ve watched on puppets. Sesame Street (I learn how to count and read with them), Muppets, Fraggle Rock … all the puppets we know (at least my generation)!! A real genius of the art. Surely inspired and inspires kids all over the world (Sesame Street is still be produced in Germany, at least).

It’s amazing, as McNally comments in his book, how you can really feel the sadness of Kermit in the picture he took for Life Magazine. Two inanimate “creatures” (puppet and chair) and the correct lighting and you have the proper mood for the event. It really touches you when you look at it.

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Copyrighted cityscapes?

Most of all love to go around taking shots of cities when we travel. I personally love it. Big Ben, London Eye, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Frauenkirche, Olympiapark, and so on. A lot of people also heard the stories like the problems when shooting the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, where the family of the sculptor enforces image copyright on the monument to a level where news papers don’t show it any more.

Blacked out London-Eye - Copyrighted cityscapes (The London Eye. Photograph from the Wikimedia Commons)

Blacked out London-Eye – Copyrighted cityscapes (The London Eye. Photograph from the Wikimedia Commons)

Of course copyright is this tricky thing. Respect mine, but I don’t care about yours. I still thing common sense should apply.

Well, common sense is about to be thrown off the window. The European Parliament will be voting next week an “equalization/unification” of the so called “freedom of panorama” for all EU countries (here the original news from Petapixel) that could basically destroy it.

If I understand well, you’ll need to seek authorization and probably pay to shoot “copyrighted buildings”. This can be taken to the level where you won’t be allowed to share on Facebook this smart-phone shot of you in London with the London-Eye in the back (apparently you’re already not allowed to do that with the Little Mermaid).

We need to speak up! We need to voice our concerns to our members of the European Parliament!

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New gear?

Ever since I bought the 60D I wanted to buy a battery grip. Not that I needed or need it, but I wanted. And I was always advised and agree that it has to be original, not a generic brand one.

Canon EOS 60D with Battery Grip

Canon EOS 60D with Battery Grip

The first problem was the price. It’s not like very expensive, but it’s money I could use for something else. Then you get to the time you can start looking for it on ebay. Apparently in Germany prices on ebay are not much better than on the stores. I have actually already found used gear on ebay that were more expensive than the same gear new bought at a reputable store!!

Once, I found it for sale on ebay at a reasonable price. When it arrived a vital part was missing. The grip comes with two magazines, where batteries go. One for 1-2 Canon batteries, the useful one. Another for 6 AA batteries, the not so useful one. The one for Canon batteries was missing. Not really useful to have your camera only running on AA batteries … so I had to send it back, and moreover, could not try it.

Years later, just recently, I found a used one on Amazon for a reasonable price. Checked if it was complete (actually the magazine for AA batteries was missing, not a problem) and bought it.

Then questions start popping. Did I really need it? What do I really get from it?

Main use is a failure for me. I don’t have a second battery. I don’t need a second battery. My 4.5 years old Canon battery lasts for days shooting on travel. It has never been the case when I ran out of battery shooting. Neither travelling, nor shooting “assignments”. Well, IF I see I’ll be days on the road and have no chance to recharge the battery I will consider getting an additional one. So far, no need for it.

Second, but also, main use is nice. The vertical grip. It’s not a MUST be, but it’s comfortable, after you get used to it, to shoot vertical and have full control over the camera. Shutter, focus, locks (AE and AF), aperture/shutter speed knob … without having to twist your hand. A much more stable and comfortable position, that allows you to go a bit lower in shutter speed.

Third, a “side effect” is the extension of the grip for shooting horizontal.

Right after I’ve received the battery grip, me and the family where leaving for vacations, a nice opportunity to make a field test.

Packed the whole thing and already noticed that the camera + grip get’s quite larger. Looks really cool (sorry, I have to go for the “looks” part ;-) ), a bit heavier, but it doesn’t fit my top loader bag anymore! Yep! It’s too large for a Top Loader 50. I would need a Top Loader 70, which is way more expensive that the 50 …

First two days of vacations was going to a fun-park, so I decided to travel light and don’t use the grip. Never run a marathon with new shoes!!!

For the following days we visited nice cities in the area and it was a great opportunity to test the grip.

Not fitting the Top Loader made the process clumsy. I had to keep the camera either on the R-Strap or inside the backpack (when eating or carrying kids).

But the best part and probably what made me keep it was the extension of the grip for the horizontal position. That makes the camera way, but way, more comfortable for someone with big hands as me. After a long day I would get my fingers sore of holding the camera, since I could not do it with all the fingers. Now I can properly hold the camera with 3 and control it with the other two fingers.

So far I’m happy with it, while I could do without it :-) Before buying a new Top Loader I’m giving a try on reorganizing my photography backpack and trying to use it really as photography backpack. Let’s see if it works.

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